Not the baby anymore

A few days before we got Leo, Isis was happy to run around in the backyard by herself. She didn’t want the door closed on her – occasionally she’d show up at the sliding glass door with her dirty ol’ soccer ball in her mouth, asking me to join her – but she was fairly happy entertaining herself out there.

She’s not doing that anymore. She needs someone out there to play with her. If I leave the door open, she comes back inside. At first, she ran right past the baby gate shielding Leo in the laundry room, but the last few days she’s taken an interest in him.

I can’t read her expression. She’s not outwardly aggressive. She doesn’t immediately bark and lunge at him, or even react when he cries. I can get her to lie at my feet. Sometimes, she looks comfortable, with her tongue hanging out in a smile.

I learned yesterday to be on the alert for a closed mouth and a stare. Even if she shifts her weight to her hip (usually a sign she is relaxed), if her gaze doesn’t waver from Leo, she could be getting an adrenaline rush that culminates in her getting up, lunging and barking at Leo.

She is not to hurt the baby. I am to make that clear to her. I thought bracing her against her shoulders and saying “No” firmly was a good response to that, but apparently it is better to “split” between them silently and then click and treat her as soon as she is calm. There needs to be a lot more clicking and treating around here.

Leo likes the laundry room, especially when I’m in the kitchen next to him. He does all right in the large crate in the computer room, where he is completely safe from Isis. We play a very catchy CD called Songs to Make Dogs Happy on repeat. The first three songs are the best. I know all the words to Squeaky-Deakey. If he’s not sleepy, he wails, sometimes not settling down for an hour, but he’s making progress.

The other day I introduced him to the smaller “traveling” kennel. In theory, he could rest in there while we watch TV, and maybe I could take him to work with me. So far he has settled down for short periods in there, even with Isis in the room. The first time, Isis got up at one point and growled at him in the kennel. She almost never growls. It’s actually a problem, because one low growl is a warning that I need to remove her from the situation. Her habit has been to go straight to vicious, lunging barking with very little warning.

Leo can walk on a leash and will sit on command already. (Clicker training is awesome.) But if he doesn’t learn bite inhibition soon, I will not have a single pair of untorn pants left and the gashes on Rob’s and my ankles will become permanent scars.

Mouthing is completely normal for a puppy. Within a few months, he should learn bite inhibition from us and the puppies he plays with at puppy preschool. Sadly, he might not be able to learn this from Isis, because if he nips her with those pinlike milk teeth of his, she’s liable to go overboard in putting him in his place. And nothing unpleasant can ever happen when the two dogs are together (once we finally allow the two dogs to be together).

Leo wants to put his teeth on everything, and for some reason prefers pant legs, sweatshirts, arms, ankles and hands to the chew toys we provide for this purpose. I’ve had some success replacing my ankle with a  stick when we take our 10-times-daily strolls in the backyard. If he has a stick in his mouth, he can’t bite my pant leg. If he’s sitting with his attention on me, he can’t bite my pant leg.

Speaking of chew toys, he still doesn’t continue to be interested in Kongs stuffed with food after I leave him alone. This was the point of the chew toy stuffed with food, remember? So he can occupy himself when left alone. He’ll eat the ground turkey out of a Kong if I hold it for him. Feels rather like giving a bottle to a baby. He sits across my legs and laps at the meat. If I leave him, he ignores the food until I return.

He will, however, eat chicken in my absence. Of course, I don’t want to leave him alone with a chicken wing, drumstick or bone-in breast, because I need to make sure he chews his bone before swallowing. I have been taking away the larger bones after he finishes eating all the meat. Since my vet is not exactly on board with the raw feeding, I really don’t want to have to take him in with a chicken bone stuck in his esophagus.

I like being a stay-at-home dog mom. I’m surprised how fast the past five days have gone. I let Leo out, play with him and put him in the laundry room. Sometimes I sit with him in there and read my book. Then I take Isis out. Then, I either take Leo out again, or I take a shower or fix some food. At some point, after I put Leo down for his nap, I take Isis for a walk. Or I run errands. I take Isis with me in the car for those. It’s important to have some mother-daughter time with the older child. By then, it’s after 3 pm. Once Rob gets home at 5, he shares in the rotation of playing with Isis outside or letting Leo out to pee. We practice having the dogs on either side of a baby gate, clicking and treating Isis for calm.

One more week to go, and we’ll see how much I feel like going back to being a working mom.

Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

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